Spring spawning for largemouths at Santee Cooper is in the rear-view mirror, but looking forward, the opportunity to catch bass, including trophies, is still a focal point for anglers.
In addition to depth and the type of lures used, finding the right water conditions is the key to finding bass. Locate the right spot and you may find several quality fish in close proximity.
Inky Davis of Manning has been guiding on both lakes for decades, and he enjoys June fishing for a variety of reasons.
“Most important, the bass fishing is very good, and with the spawn over, we have considerably less bass fishing pressure,” he said. “Fishing during the week, anglers will find plenty of elbow room. In fact, many days, we’ll catch more fish now than earlier in the year. Although the odds of hooking huge fish are not as high, June offers a very realistic opportunity to hook a trophy fish.”
Davis (803-478-7289) said that the key is similar to the slogan for real-estate sales.
“It’s location, location and location,” he said.
Davis said bass will be in relatively shallow water throughout the rest of the spring and into summer.
“The fish migrate a bit from the spawning cover in very shallow water and relate to various forms of cover in slightly deeper water,” he said. “They begin to scatter more on flats with stumps and woody cover near drops early and late in the day. I believe getting out early can be crucial, and I like to start the day with topwater or very shallow-working lures in open flats near drops where fish congregate and actively feed. Walk-the-dog type lures, buzzbaits, Flukes and similar lures are excellent. I’ll often opt for shad-pattern lures, but I don’t hesitate to experiment to find the hot color for a given day.”
Davis said that while finding key depths is crucial, he only fishes a couple of feet deeper than he did during the spawn, but focal points include heavy cover and some slightly deeper water.
“I think it’s crucial to find plenty of cover, such as weeds, vegetation such as eel grass, cypress trees or any cover to which bass can use,” he said. “They will be able to find food readily in slightly deeper water, and except for early and late-in-the-day active feeding times, they will be found holding tight to cover.
“Productive depths will vary in different parts of the lake, water color and time of day, but typically I look for them in depths ranging from 3 to 7 feet. A wide variety of lures will still work, and in addition to early and late, topwater lures and floating worms are an excellent choice for mid-day June fishing around heavy cover. Frogs are also one of my favorite lures this time of year.”
Ideally, Davis said he’d like to find heavy cover along an irregular, contoured shoreline with pockets of slightly deeper water nearby.
“That may sound a bit complex, but actually, it’s a common situation in both lakes if fishermen go to a little effort to watch their graphs while working the shallow water,” he said.
Davis said a big depth change is not necessary to attract and hold bass. He said it can be subtle, with water only 2 feet deeper plenty to serve the purpose for June fishing.
“When we catch a big fish or a couple decent ones in close proximity, I’ll check things out visually and with my graph to determine why those fish were in that location on that day,” he said. “When I figure that out, I can start hitting similar spots and often enjoy a great day of fishing by simply putting a pattern together early in the day.”
Davis said June is also good for catching schooling fish throughout the day.
“When we find topwater action, we use crankbaits, topwater lures, worms and heavy bodied tailspinners such as the Little George,” he said.
Late May and June bass offer prime weather conditions for fishing all-day, according to Davis.
“A good bite and potential for big fish and good weather make for a near perfect day of bass fishing,” he said.
Striper fishing has closed until October, and based on the extraordinary fishing last fall, that’s certainly something to anticipate. But the here and now offers great fishing for several species.
Angler favorites include bream and shellcracker, and while big spawns for shellcracker are typically April and May and the big bream spawn in May, June offers plenty of limit-catching opportunities for both species.
Get back into cover such as trees, around weeds and stumps, logs and grass pockets for great flatfish action. Crickets or worms will work well for both species, but shellcrackers are usually targeted by anglers using red worms or night crawlers.
This time of year, crappie have moved back to deeper water and are typically bunched on open-water brush. Look for cover along drops and humps in Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie. Live minnows and small jigs produce excellent results. Work either around sunken brush or other materials, such as the public fish attractors located and marked in both lakes. It’s a great way to load the boat with slabs.
Another great June fishery is catfish, with blues, flatheads and channels all biting.
Catfish are still caught in fairly shallow water during low-light conditions, but many have moved deeper by now. Blues prefer cut bait, with perch, shad and herring all excellent choices. Big flatheads prefer live bait but are sometimes taken on fresh-cut bait. Channels are caught on cut or live bait, as well as stinkbaits, small minnows and night crawlers.
Catfish bite so well during June that fishermen targeting bream and crappie are likely to hook a few of these slick-skinned eating machines.